With its colourful coral gardens and abundant marine life, the Maldives has a deserved reputation as one of the world’s best diving destinations. However, that reputation could be under threat as more than 60 per cent of the archipelago’s coral reefs are reported to have been bleached.

Bleaching turns reefs a ghostly white and happens when corals become stressed by high temperatures, which have been a particular feature of 2016; a year that looks set to be the hottest on record.

A survey of the Maldives’ reefs – conducted by the Maldives Marine Research Center (MRC), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) – found more than 60 per cent of corals had suffered bleaching.  

“Preliminary findings of the extent of the bleaching are alarming,” said Dr. Ameer Abdulla, research team leader and Senior Advisor to IUCN on Marine Biodiversity and Conservation Science.

Reefs around the world have suffered unprecedented bleaching in 2016; scientists estimate that up to 93 per cent of the Great Barrier Reef has been affected, though local factors, such as pollution and industrialisation, have also been blamed on the reef's demise.

According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), some 25 per cent of all marine life depends on coral reefs.  

Local economies also rely upon them, particularly in countries like the Maldives, where tourism and fishing are the primary industries: the Government of Maldives claim the archipelago’s marine and coastal biodiversity is responsible for some 89 per cent of the country’s GDP.

Some 25 per cent of all marine life depends on coral reefs

Scientists predict bleaching events will become more frequent due to manmade climate change. Indeed, there is a consensus amongst scientists that targets set at the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference in Paris – which agreed to limit warming to within 1.5C of pre-industrial levels – will be broken.

“The reality is the commitments the countries have made will produce 2.7C of warming – and that’s if they all stick to their commitments, which, of course, mostly they won’t,” said Professor Peter Wadhams, Professor of Ocean Physics at Cambridge University.

Speaking to Telegraph Travel, Professor Wadhams, whose book about climate change, A Farewell to Ice, will be released next month, said there are reasons to be optimistic. 

“If we’re going to actually bring the climate under control we won’t do it by reducing carbon emissions, we can only do it by taking carbon out of the atmosphere through direct air capture,” he said.

There are reasons to be optimistic

“I’m optimistic that direct air capture technology can be developed in an affordable way and that would solve the whole problem – CO2 and methane are the villains here so if you can take them out of the atmosphere then all the climate consequences go away.”

Such technology would be game changing, particularly for the 400,000 odd inhabitants who live in the Maldives, which is very much a paradise in peril; the highest point on the 1,190-island archipelago is just 2.4m, leaving the nation extremely vulnerable to rising sea levels caused by climate change.

Source : www.telegraph.co.uk/

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